PHILADELPHIA — It was Nick Foles’ turn to start on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field, but the lasting impression was similar to the Eagles’ preseason opener. Both quarterbacks impressed in the 14-9 victory over the Carolina Panthers, although Michael Vick outshined Foles and continued pushing ahead in his bid to win the starting job.
On his first drive of game, Foles marched the Eagles downfield as if he was a veteran of coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Then came a head-scratching, ill-fated interception in the end zone. He followed with a scoring drive capped by a rushing touchdown that could not eclipse the turnover.
When Vick entered the game in the second quarter, the 33-year-old surpassed even last week’s sterling performance. He connected on his first nine passes, and aside from a deep heave that was intercepted as the first-half clock expired, his performance was flawless.
Foles finished 6 of 8 for 53 yards and the interception, as well as 13 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Vick was 9 of 10 for 105 yards and one interception, and also rushed twice for 20 yards.
Overall, the Eagles looked better in their second preseason game, with a first-team defense that either dramatically improved in six days or simply validated what Tom Brady can do to an unrefined unit. One week after the Patriots dominated the Eagles’ defense, the same unit was stout against the Panthers.
The offense was boosted by the return of LeSean McCoy, who totaled 47 rushing yards on eight carries and scored a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 16 yards in his preseason debut.
The Eagles opened the game with the up-tempo pace that Kelly calls a “tool in our toolbox.” Operating exclusively out of the shotgun in the no-huddle offense, Foles led the Eagles near the Panthers goal line over 13 plays.
Foles also mishandled two snaps. On the second one, he picked up the ball and tried to resuscitate the play by throwing it into the back of the end zone. He threw into double coverage and the pass was intercepted by Josh Thomas.
Foles rebounded on the next drive, when the Eagles drove 39 yards for a touchdown — 26 coming on McCoy’s rushing. Foles scrambled for a 7-yard score to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
When the Eagles regained possession, it was Vick’s turn. He led the Eagles 46 yards before Chris Polk lost a fumble. Vick completed four passes on the drive, including a 15-yarder to Jason Avant on third and 12.
On Vick’s next drive, it took him only 2 minutes, 7 seconds to bring the Eagles 74 yards, with all but McCoy’s 1-yard touchdown directly coming from Vick. He hit four straight passes, then ran for 20 yards before McCoy’s score.
Kelly would likely feel comfortable with either quarterback, as both offered evidence that they could run the offense. But Vick was the better of the two. Midway through the preseason, clarity is coming to the quarterback competition.